Modernitalia provides a map of the Italian twentieth century in the form of twelve essays by the celebrated cultural historian Jeffrey T. Schnapp. Shuttling back and forth between literature, architecture, design, and the visual arts, the volume explores the metaphysics of speed, futurist and dada typography, real and imaginary forms of architecture, shifting regimes of mass spectacle, the iconography of labour, exhibitions as modes of public mobilization and persuasion, and the emergence of industrial models of literary culture and communication.
The figures featured in the book include Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Mario Morasso, Julius Evola, Piero Portaluppi, Giuseppe Terragni, Alessandro Blasetti, Massimo Bontempelli, Giorgio de Chirico, Bruno Munari, Curzio Malaparte, and Henry Furst. Alongside these human protagonists appear granite blocks that drive the design of modern monuments, military searchlights that animate civilian shows, worker armies viewed as machines, sunglasses that tiptoe along the boundary of the private and public, newsreels as twentieth-century interpretations of Trajan’s column, and book covers and bindings that act as authorial self-portraits. The volume captures the Italian path to cultural modernity in all of its brilliance and multiplicity.
‘Jeffrey Schnapp’s essays fizz with intelligence, erudition and style. These explorations into Italian modernity offer ingenious inquiries into the paradoxes and plasticity of cultural forms, putting into question established interpretations based on dichotomy and definition. A master class in cultural history’ (Robert Lumley, Professor of Italian Cultural History, University College London).
‘Like the Futurists, Schnapp comes armed with explosive ideas and, like the Modernists, handles them coolly and clearly: he zigzags impatiently through modern Italy in search of its fugitive soul, stopping at half-forgotten way-stations and blazing into favorite topics with courage and insight’ (Kurt W. Forster, Professor of Architectural History and Theory, Yale University).